MADISON, Wis. -

Madison College students are experience what it is like to make life-and-death decisions in a split second, which is something law enforcement officers experience for real on the streets.

A simulator is used as part of the Protective Services program at Madison College. By projecting realistic situations onto a screen, students learn how to deal with armed assailants.

Twice in the last week, law enforcement officers in Madison and Dane County encountered an attacker armed with a knife. In those two situations, five people were stabbed, two fatally, before the attackers were shot and killed by law enforcement officers.

“In about a third of a second an officer has to make a judgment call on whether they need to use deadly force or not,” said Brian Landers, an instructor at Madison College and a former police officer.

Students in the Protective Service program also learn techniques for de-escalating situations with armed individuals. They also teach students to identify aggressive behavior by individuals, and assess the surroundings and threat that exists.

“If they recognize somebody or something that is potentially dangerous, they should try to increase their reaction time. Distance allows them to increase that reaction time. So don’t be so quick to rush in toward that person, or don’t be so quick to try to control that person. Maybe back up a little bit. Give them some directions verbally from a distance to control them that way,” Landers said.

Instructors said that once a person armed with a knife gets within 21 feet of a police officer, the reaction time is down to seconds.

“Our thing is to get away from the threat because we know if they are within 21 feet they have lethal force,” said Brian Schneider, an instructor at Madison College.

The simulator training at Madison College allows students to face real-life situations and learn from mistakes. Once on the street as police officers, those mistakes could cost them their lives or the lives of others.